Effect of Lactation on Hypothalamic Preproenkephalin Gene Expression

M. A. Ottinger, K. L. Rosewell, N. G. Weiland, K. T. Margaretten, P. M. Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Enkephalin appears to modulate several aspects of reproductive function in female rats. The purpose of this study was to determine if lactation influences preproenkephalin gene expression in one or more hypothalamic nuclei known to be involved in maternal or reproductive behavior and prolactin secretion. Lactating rats were killed on day 3 (LAC 3) or day 10 (LAC 10) of lactation. Controls consisted of regular 4‐day cycling rats that were killed on diestrous day 1, with 9 to 12 females per group. We used in situ hybridization histochemistry to assess preproenkephalin gene expression in individual cells in the medial preoptic nucleus, anterior, medial and posterior arcuate nucleus, magnocellular and parvocellular aspects of paraventricular nucleus, and ventromedial nucleus. Preproenkephalin mRNA in the anterior arcuate nucleus increased to reach significance (P < 0.05) at day 10 of lactation. Levels in the medial arcuate nucleus increased significantly (P < 0.001) by day 3 of lactation (LAC 3) and remained elevated on day 10 (LAC 10). No significant differences between lactating and control rats were detected in preproenkephalin mRNA levels in the posterior arcuate nucleus, medial preoptic nucleus or in the ventromedial nucleus. Substantial levels of preproenkephalin mRNA were found in the paraventricular nucleus, particularly in a limited region of the magnocellular portion. However, these levels did not change with lactation. These data provide evidence for differential regulation of the preproenkephalin gene during lactation. This change may contribute to. lactational hyperprolactinemia and suppressed GnRH secretion, leading to reproductive acyclicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-346
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • enkephalin mRNA
  • hypothalamus
  • in situ hybridization
  • lactation
  • rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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